Corzine, Like Economy, Lags in New Jersey

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Gov. Jon Corzine’s standing with the New Jersey public is suffering along with the economy. According to the most recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind, 40% of voters approve of the job Corzine is doing while 46% disapprove--a reversal from January when 46% approved and 40% disapproved. “The governor is taking his lumps along with the rest of New Jersey,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll.

Among Democrats, 58% approve and 28% disapprove with 14% unsure, a 2-to-1 margin in the governor’s favor, but independents disapprove by 2-to-1 and Republicans disapprove by 3-to-1.  More ominous is that among public employee households, 31% approve while 56% disapprove. That compares to an even split among all other households, 43%-44%.

The governor wins handily in a trial heat against an assortment of obscure contenders, picking up 59%, while none of the potential challengers picks up more than 2%. But more than a third of Democrats (36%) are undecided even given that undistinguished field and many of those migrate when given other choices. Democrats asked to choose between Corzine and Senate Majority Leader Richard Codey pick Corzine by 51% to 32% with 17% undecided.  Asked to choose between Corzine and Newark Mayor Cory Booker, they pick Corzine by 54%-23%.

Indeed, in a trial heat against the leading Republican contender, Corzine trails former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie by 32%-41%.  In that heat, 73% of Republicans line up behind Christie, while just 55% of Democrats line up behind Corzine. “When budgets are cut, public employees laid off, and taxes are in danger of being raised, lots of people think twice about their support for the incumbent,” said Woolley. “The governor’s own majority coalition is his biggest challenge.”

The governor bests other Republican contenders though not necessarily with ease.  He comes out just ahead of former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan by 36%-32%.  He beats Assemblyman Rick Merkt 37%-28% and beats Mayor Brian Levine 38%-27%, with the rest unsure.

Christie’s name recognition continues to climb, from 40% in September to 44% in January and to 57% this month. Just as important, 30% have a favorable opinion of him against 6% whose view is unfavorable, a five-to-one ratio. Other Republican contenders lag in name recognition: 67% of all voters and 53% of Republicans haven’t heard of Lonegan, 91% of voters haven’t heard of Merkt and 83% haven’t heard of Levine.

Christie also made headway among Republican voters since January.  Asked who they might nominate in June to run for governor, 43% of Republicans choose Christie, compared to 32% in January before he announced his intention to run.  Another 15% prefer Lonegan, unchanged since January. Merkt picks up 1% and Levine 2%. But 39% are unsure or have no preference.

The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 751 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone from Feb. 25, 2009 through March. 2, 2009, and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.  Samples for some questions, as noted in tables, are smaller.


Peter Woolley 973.670.3239

For more information, please call (973) 443-8661.

Copyright © 2009, Fairleigh Dickinson University. All rights reserved. FDU PublicMind Poll [Latest update 090304]